"Ask If She Wants a Hug." Teaching Kids About Consent
When I was a nanny my littlest kid was crazy cute. They were all cute of course but Junie got extra attention for her adorable curls, bright eyes and round cheeks. Everybody wanted to hug her.
She got sick of it.
Junie does not owe anyone hugs because she's cute.
I want all kids to receive the message from me that they are in charge of their own bodies. That they're not obligated to hug or kiss anyone, regardless of social pressure to do so.
Others should ask her and wait for a "yes" before they move in for a hug.
It was hard for my other nanny kids to resist the urge to hug her. But they learned to ask, "can I hug you?" and wait to hear her answer. This rule extended to others too - little brothers, babies we met at the park.
Her parents and I encouraged her to say, "no thanks" if she was not into it.
The upside to this situation was that Junie got lots of practice setting boundaries about her body and her personal space. I stayed close and prompted her to look right at the space-invading friend and say, "please back up" or "I'd like more space please" or "no."
Learning to give and get consent starts in early childhood.
When kids give and get consent about hugs and kisses, they're not thinking about it as practice for sexual encounters in young adulthood. But I am. I want kids to know deep in their guts that they don't have to accept unwanted touch. I love it when kids learn it's their responsibility to get consent before touching someone else. And I welcome opportunities for them to practice setting clear boundaries when they don't want to be touched.
Sometimes though, they do want a hug or kiss! They say, "yes!" and get to experience how fantastic it is to want affection, say yes to it and feel great about getting it. That's really fun too.